Footwear brand Crocs is flying high in the real world and now it’s ready to take on the holidays in the virtual one, with an immersive new shopping experience launching Wednesday until Dec. 31, the company told WWD in an exclusive interview.
“We’re doing an actual virtual shopping experience that has five different unique themed rooms,” explained Feliz Papich, Crocs’ vice president of digital product management and consumer experience. “These highlight important product lines and important innovation moments for us inside of the Crocs catalog. So this kind of takes this whole experience and brings it to life, so we can actually interact with the consumers.”
The company worked with virtual retail platform Obsess on the three-month project. The first room, essentially a landing space, offers visitors options to roam the WebVR world freely, play a game to win exclusive prizes or take a quiz so that the system can guide them to a relevant area and personalize the game.
The other four rooms each carry different sensibilities: One was crafted as a tribute to the brand’s classic clogs, while another glitter-infused room brings party vibes. A fuzz-lined room was designed as a warm and cozy space, and a Jibbitz room was created as a customization station, where people can pick charms to customize their shoes. Shoppers are invited to visit one or all of the areas.
According to Papich, the atmospheres may be visual, but they were designed to convey a sense of tactility and a range of vibes — from the fuzz-lined room’s soft, fluffy decor to the glitter room’s metallic ball and balloons, which evoke fun and festive New Year’s Eve celebrations. Other spaces double down on a winter or holiday theme, complete with an igloo-like structure as well as a snowy beach to denote holiday vacations.
“[When] you think of shopping at holiday, you think about a Hallmark movie, right? Sipping your hot cocoa and you’ve got your scarf on, and so we really wanted to bring that to life,” she said. “We wanted our consumers to feel like they could go into a different room and feel their self-expression inside of that. That’s a big theme with our brand at all times. It’s self-expression, personalization.”
The effort appears to resonate strongly with consumers, which may matter now more than ever. While inflation and other issues dog major retailers, brands and tech companies, many of which have been showing disappointing numbers lately, the 20-year-old shoe company just marked four consecutive quarters of growth, thanks to a revenue haul of $985 million. Although profit didn’t quite meet expectations, it was enough to boost Crocs’ share price more than four percent.
Not bad for an item that started as a boating shoe and is perhaps known best as “kitchen clogs” — or at least it was until recently.
This year alone brought collaborations with MCM and Sza, as well as luxury fashion house Balenciaga, significantly raising Crocs’ profile. The company has also been very active on the technology front, which only helps keep the footwear in front of the Gen Z and even Gen Alpha crowd.
Indeed, while the current virtual shop may be the company’s first dedicated to the holidays, it’s not the brand’s first move in the metaverse and mixed reality.
In 2021, Crocs stepped up as the first footwear brand to take on TikTok’s augmented reality with #GetCrocd, a campaign launched on TikTok and Douyin in China that nabbed more than 8 billion impressions and hashtag use that soared more than 1.3 million times worldwide. Later that year it launched on NBA 2K and debuted its own Crocs World in Minecraft.
January 2022 delivered Crocs NFTs for Paris Fashion Week, followed by a collaboration in June with Saweeti on a limited-edition line of Jibbitz charms featured, along with the rapper’s avatar, in another virtual reality shopping experience. Most recently, it brought Crocs World to the Zepeto metaverse in September and Roblox in October.
This time, Crocs worked with Obsess, its previous tech partner on the Saweetie project. The firm’s virtual store platform develops immersive 3D experiences that brands can host on their own websites.
“We started working with Crocs earlier this year, when they created this virtual pop-up with 3D, and that performed really well for them. This holiday virtual store is a much larger experience, with a lot of their product line, and all of the different kind of categories or products that they have,” said Neha Singh, chief executive officer and founder of Obsess. “A couple of things that are unique about this experience is how they’re using our platform, they have really added a lot of kind of personalization and gamification to the experience.”
Beauty and fashion are the largest categories for the platform, which works with some 20 to 30 brands in these sectors. To date it has released more than 150 virtual stores and Singh estimates that fashion and beauty account for two-thirds of them. The projects vary quite a bit — from a virtual replica of a retailer’s physical store to a fantastical scene that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, like the intergalactic environment it created for makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury last year.
But splashy visuals aren’t the only motivation, at least for Crocs. The utility matters, added Papich, both to help the consumer find just the right thing and as a strategic move for the company.
“The way that we think about these virtual experiences is that they really should drive acquisition with consumers that we don’t reach on other platforms,” the Crocs executive said. “I think opportunity number one is to reach and acquire additional consumers. And then opportunity number two is the personalization and the conversation with the consumer going forward.
“Because if we know that you are coming from an Instagram post and you hit this, experience it and check out, we know that that’s what you’re looking for from us. [Not everyone] wants to engage, so that really helps us segment and have the right conversation with you, so our conversations are actually relevant.”